Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia
Art installation at Epizode 2019

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: SEA’s only underground EDM festival; Filipino writer Leoncia Deriada dies; KL’s Rex Cinema repurposed to arts centre REXKL

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ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region. Here’s a round-up of content from this week, scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms, and brought together in one article for convenient reading.

Art installation at Epizode 2019 Photo: Jessica Cariad Hopkins
Backstage at Southeast Asia’s only underground electronic festival
Southeast Asia Globe

Three years ago, a group of Russian club owners started a small festival on the shores of Phu Quoc, Vietnam, with the aim of introducing international DJs to the region. Now with 37 Southeast Asian DJs in the mix, the 11-day fest has turned into a truly international cross-cultural exchange.

High above the clear blue shoreline of Vietnam’s most popular tourist island, atop long, spindly legs three metres high, stand four elephants. They amble along, emulating the movement of the beach’s party-goers, catching the sound of dance music emanating out to the water from four separate stages along the beach. The people below also spend the day – and night – absorbing the music of DJs from around the world, while dancing on the beach, swimming in the ocean, or lazing in a hammock in one of the artfully created nooks.

Sculptures dot the path along the beach that winds its way from stage to stage. At first one may not notice the egg-shaped bungalow nestled in a tree, or the DJ stage tucked inside a conical seashell shape. That’s because almost all of the additions to the beach that were built for the festival were made of bamboo and designed to blend into the natural environment. A path finds its way between what seems to be two natural rock surfaces, but at second look are the divided head of a Buddha. Above the bar on one end of the beach is an intricately-designed series of bamboo hallways connecting cozy seating areas strewn with oversized throw pillows that provide some respite from, as well as a view of, the mad party below. [Read more…]

PROLIFIC WRITER. Leoncio Deriada is known as the father of contemporary West Visayan literature. Screenshot from YouTube.com/culturalcenterphils

Award-winning writer Leoncio Deriada dies
Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Leoncio P. Deriada, known as the father of contemporary West Visayan literature, has died. He was 81.

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop as well as the university’s Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center, posted about his death on their official Facebook pages.

Deriada was born in Iloilo and studied in Davao, where he earned his BA English degree at the Ateneo de Davao University. He earned his MA in English at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, and his PhD in English and Literature from Silliman University in Dumaguete.

He was an award-winning fictionist, poet, and playwright, producing stories such as The Road to Mawab and The Day of the Locusts, and plays such as The Dog-Eaters and Medea of Siquijor. He was also a teacher, and was Professor Emeritus at the University of Philippines Visayas where he taught Comparative Literature.

Known for being a prolific writer in various languages – he wrote in English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Kiniray-a, and Cebuano – Deriada was a champion for writing in one’s mother tongue. [Read more…]

Landscape of the Soul III (WWII) 2016. Frances Larder.

Review: Landscape of the soul
Inside Indonesia

In the 1960s I completed two honours degrees in Indonesian and Malayan Studies at the University of Sydney and gained a doctoral degree from Cornell University focusing on Indonesia. Since then I have taught Indonesian social sciences, worked as an Indonesian interpreter and translator, and visited Indonesia many times, teaching for a while at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. With that background, I thought I had fairly good grounding in Indonesian history and society.

This confidence was profoundly shaken when, by chance, I was in the New South Wales country town of Coffs Harbour and happened to visit the town’s art gallery. I was confronted by an exhibition titled ‘Landscape of the Soul: A Mixed Media Exhibition Illustrating the Experience of European Dutch and Eurasian People in Indonesia During the Japanese Occupation, the Revolution and After’.

What I learnt from this striking exhibition was that soon after Indonesian independence was declared on 17 August 1945, the most horrific massacres of men, women and children who were of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent took place. A profoundly important historical event, but one that outside of The Netherlands and to a small extent Indonesia, with few exceptions, has hardly entered academic, let alone broader historical consciousness. [Read more…]

Photo: Goethe Institut

Why is Southeast Asia lacking in postcolonial perspectives?
The Jakarta Post

Despite being one of the most colonized regions in the 19th century, Southeast Asia has a lack of postcolonial literature.

Postcolonialism can mean several different things depending on which academic you talk to. It is a school of philosophy that is hard to comprehend, especially to someone from a non-colonized country. Encyclopedia Britannica defines postcolonialism as “the historical period or state of affairs representing the aftermath of Western colonialism.” The encyclopedia, however, notes that the term also applies to describe “the concurrent project to reclaim and rethink the history and agency of people subordinated under various forms of imperialism.”

Postcolonialism is a hot button issue for a lot of academics, including those in Southeast Asian countries once under the rule of Western colonizers.

Sociologists, historians and curators dived deep into this issue in Postcolonial Perspectives from the Global South, a public forum hosted by the Goethe Institute Jakarta on Jan. 24 and 25 at GoetheHaus Jakarta. [Read more…]

Image from Fernando Gomulya

A School Built For Sabah’s Stateless Children Has Won An Award For Sustainable Design
SAYS

“Designing for the poor shouldn’t equate to poor design.”

This was what architect Robert Verrijt thought when dreaming up Etania Green School, a proof-of-concept, scalable prototype built for stateless children in Sabah.

Dutch-born Verrjit, who is chief design officer of NGO billionbricks said that, “There’s a mindset among some who work with the marginalised, that these people should just be happy with what they’re given – no questions asked.”

However, the forces behind Etania Green School felt that children needed quality education regardless of their socioeconomic background, and that campus design plays a crucial role in achieving this, Design Boom reported.

The learning centre for marginalised and stateless children is a product of collaboration between non-profit organisation billionBricks, design studio architecture brio, and Harvard Business School. [Read more…]

Pictures courtesy of REXKL and Prakash Daniel

Repurposing a Chinatown icon: From Rex Cinema to REXKL
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — The name Rex Cinema evokes powerful memories for those who recall the heydays of the theatre on Petaling Street (Jalan Sultan). The original Rex burned down in the 1970s; it was rebuilt and lasted for 25 years before finally ceasing operations in 2002. Since then, it has had many lives: a backpackers’ hostel, migrant housing and even a karaoke shop. There was even a second fire in 2007.

You’d be forgiven if you thought memories are all that remain. After all, how many lives could a phoenix have, even if it keeps rising from the ashes?

Today, the dilapidated building is slowly but surely regaining some of its former glory as it transitions to a new role: that of a space for Malaysian creatives and entrepreneurs.

With a new life, a new name: REXKL. [Read more…]

Nude is inspired by the lives of women in Cambodia’s cities; the conditions of inhabitants and the different and highly individual paths towards development and happiness experienced by each woman. Chheang’s first exhibition was held in 2014, and she has held six solo exhibitions and two group exhibitions since. Photo supplied

Artist depicts women’s struggle on canvas in Nude exhibition
The Phnom Penh Post

A painting depicting a woman sitting nude, vulnerably poised among blossoming sunflowers is just one piece in a new exhibition entitled Nude, looking to shed light on the vulnerability and gender inequality still experienced by many Cambodian women.

The exhibition – launched on March 8, International Women’s Day, at Phnom Penh gallery The Bodleian – consists of six paintings by Cambodian artist and photographer Rena Chheang.

The exhibition’s provocative title alone would make many in socially conservative Cambodia uneasy. But Chheang urges visitors to look beyond the nude portraits and see the deeper meaning her work explores through the lives of Cambodian women.

“My paintings reflect the lives of our urban, city women in Cambodia. No matter the condition in which they are living, women have different ways of struggling towards success. They have individual paths to development and happiness.” [Read more…]

Artist Chan Phoun demonstrating his painting on a boat cruise in Kampot. (Photo by Mayumi Tsutakawa.)

Cambodia art journey reflects the nation’s modern hope
The Seattle Globalist

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — Lauren Iida, an accomplished Seattle artist, creates spaces and opportunities for Cambodian artists to train and excel. She is the founder of Open Studio Cambodia, a fledgling art center in Kampot, the small coastal city south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. The center gathers and trains emerging artists, many of whom live with disabilities and have enjoyed very few chances to hone their art skills.

Iida, who has Japanese American roots on her father’s side, studied art at Cornish College of the Arts. She traveled the world extensively before finding a calling in Cambodia more than 10 years ago. She now lives in Cambodia, and frequently visits her family in Washington.

Iida still has strong ties to the state. Her gallery representative, ArtXchange Gallery, is in Pioneer Square, and she has been selected as one of the artists to create public art for the major addition to the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

Besides making art, Iida leads tours comprising visitors meeting Cambodia’s contemporary artists and their studios. [Read more…]

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